VHS to digital capture / conversion - help refine my transfer workflow?

MiketheMechanic

Standard Member
Hi all. With some extra time at home due to COVID, I'm tackling a project that has been outstanding for 15 years.

I have over 50 VHS tapes to transfer to digital before the tapes are lost to time.

The recordings are 99% PAL and a mixture of camcorder home movies on VHS-C and recordings on VHS from TV from the late 80s and early 90s.



I want to transfer them to digital and keep the highest possible quality.

I'm not bothered about burning each tape to DVD or Blu-Ray, I just want to save in a solid reliable video format on a Hard Drive.

Most likely these will be shared YouTube, or viewed on an computer or on TV via a memory stick at a later stage.

For really special home movies, I may do some editing in the future. So I want a solid digital capture to work with.


I attempted to start this project around 3 years ago and experimented with the following setups.


1. A good quality Panasonic 4-head VCR. Does a reasonably good job playing the tapes cleanly when viewed on a monitor.

I am taking the output from this VCR via a S-video cable and red and white RCA phono for audio to the next stage.



2a. Capture Device: A TOTMC USB 2.0 Video capture device dongle. This is an EasyCAP type device - cheap and cheerful.

It is running ArcSoft ShowBiz 3.5.15 software on Win 10 on my PC.

Pros:

You can get up and running quickly. Press play on the VCR, and hit Capture on the ArcSoftware, then when finished, publish to MPEG2 format video.

Cons:

1. Quality isn't great - seems to be a lot of loss and noise in the conversion, even applying the various filters.

2. The software is ancient and a bit clunky. Is there a better software package that works with these EasyCAP type of dongles?

3. MPEG2 isn't ideal - would prefer AVI or uncompressed video format options.


I also tried a different capture method.

2b: Capture Device: A Sony RDR-HX525 DVD Recorder with HDD.

I feed the output of the VCR into the recorder and record to the HDD.

Then burn from the HDD to a DVD-R to get a digital video file.

Pros:

Better quality than the EasyCAP method - still hope there's a better quality method though.

Cons:

1. Slow and time consuming. Essentially an extra step in the process in burning and finalizing the DVD-R from the internal HDD.

Then ripping the digital .vob file from the DVD back to the PC.

I tried to extract the files directly from the HDD on the recorder by removing it from the recorder, but the HDD was not in a format I could read on a PC.


Are there better methods of capture?

I have read about people using Mini DV Camcorders, with AV in passing through to Firewire and on to a PC.

Is this a better method? If so, what models of Mini DV Camcorders have a good ADC converter? And what software is needed on the PC?


Are other DVD Recorders better at the ADC conversion and more user friendly than the Sony unit I have?


I have also read about Canopus ADVC units? Are they recommended - if so, which one?


Finally, I could buy a Video Capture Card for my PC - is this a better method - if so, which one?



Thanks in advance - always brilliant advice on AVF,

Mike
 

AJohnston

Active Member
Hi all. With some extra time at home due to COVID, I'm tackling a project that has been outstanding for 15 years.

I have over 50 VHS tapes to transfer to digital before the tapes are lost to time.

The recordings are 99% PAL and a mixture of camcorder home movies on VHS-C and recordings on VHS from TV from the late 80s and early 90s.



I want to transfer them to digital and keep the highest possible quality.

I'm not bothered about burning each tape to DVD or Blu-Ray, I just want to save in a solid reliable video format on a Hard Drive.

Most likely these will be shared YouTube, or viewed on an computer or on TV via a memory stick at a later stage.

For really special home movies, I may do some editing in the future. So I want a solid digital capture to work with.


I attempted to start this project around 3 years ago and experimented with the following setups.


1. A good quality Panasonic 4-head VCR. Does a reasonably good job playing the tapes cleanly when viewed on a monitor.

I am taking the output from this VCR via a S-video cable and red and white RCA phono for audio to the next stage.



2a. Capture Device: A TOTMC USB 2.0 Video capture device dongle. This is an EasyCAP type device - cheap and cheerful.

It is running ArcSoft ShowBiz 3.5.15 software on Win 10 on my PC.

Pros:

You can get up and running quickly. Press play on the VCR, and hit Capture on the ArcSoftware, then when finished, publish to MPEG2 format video.

Cons:

1. Quality isn't great - seems to be a lot of loss and noise in the conversion, even applying the various filters.

2. The software is ancient and a bit clunky. Is there a better software package that works with these EasyCAP type of dongles?

3. MPEG2 isn't ideal - would prefer AVI or uncompressed video format options.


I also tried a different capture method.

2b: Capture Device: A Sony RDR-HX525 DVD Recorder with HDD.

I feed the output of the VCR into the recorder and record to the HDD.

Then burn from the HDD to a DVD-R to get a digital video file.

Pros:

Better quality than the EasyCAP method - still hope there's a better quality method though.

Cons:

1. Slow and time consuming. Essentially an extra step in the process in burning and finalizing the DVD-R from the internal HDD.

Then ripping the digital .vob file from the DVD back to the PC.

I tried to extract the files directly from the HDD on the recorder by removing it from the recorder, but the HDD was not in a format I could read on a PC.


Are there better methods of capture?

I have read about people using Mini DV Camcorders, with AV in passing through to Firewire and on to a PC.

Is this a better method? If so, what models of Mini DV Camcorders have a good ADC converter? And what software is needed on the PC?


Are other DVD Recorders better at the ADC conversion and more user friendly than the Sony unit I have?


I have also read about Canopus ADVC units? Are they recommended - if so, which one?


Finally, I could buy a Video Capture Card for my PC - is this a better method - if so, which one?



Thanks in advance - always brilliant advice on AVF,

Mike
I did this about 10 years ago. I used (and I think it's still available) a device from Pinnacle called Dazzle but I also used a time base corrector as some of my old VHS tapes wouldn't play properly. If I recall correctly VHS data is recorded helicaly with a timing track to synchronise the data which degrades over time.
 

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